One of the learning objectives for this class is for students to, learn about some of the central debates that shape current thinking about food in American culture and practice articulating their own informed opinions on those debates. In this assignment you will practice articulating your own opinion, informed by the ideas presented in this class, on a topic of your choice in the form of a letter. First you will find an article or other item that you wish to respond to, then you will articulate your informed opinion on the topic of the article, or other item, in the form of a letter to the author, editor or producer of the item you are responding to. Your letter must offer a concise but well-developed argument that clearly and appropriately uses concepts from the class to respond to the article or other item.
Length and Format:
Your letter should be about 550 words long. Think of the letter as a hybrid between a traditional letter to the editor and a traditional opinion piece that might be published in a newspaper. A typical letter to the editor is under 200 words, but this assignment asks for something a little longer and more developed, so in that sense it is more like a typical opinion piece. Examples of Letter to Editor & Opinion Pieces are here.
Address your letter to the author, editor or producer of the item you are responding to.
Both letters to the editor and opinion pieces have titles. Yours needs one too.
Include a link to the item you are responding to at the top of your paper, above the Dear Author / Editor line.
Developing your opinion:
To write a good letter you must know where you stand on the issue, and attempt to persuade readers toward a certain conclusion. Some letters to the editor persuade based on experience, others on knowledge and expertise. Yours should persuade based on knowledge and expertise of food in American culture that you have gained from this class.
give the issue greater context
question or challenge an argument or conclusion
question or challenge an assumption
propose a different perspective or way of thinking about the problem at hand
provide additional support for an idea or argument in the article
Consider your audience (readers of the publication you are writing to) carefully throughout the writing process. Try to anticipate objections they may have. At some point you should try to shoot holes into your argument so that you can “fix” them. (Effective argument does not have to be fool-proof, and it is perfectly alright not to have an answer to every problem that can arise. Do not feel bad about making concessions on certain points.)
Using course concepts:
Your central task is to express an opinion that is supported by one or more course concepts. Course concepts are the main ideas and arguments that have been presented in the lectures this quarter. (The concepts are listed on the overview slide at the beginning of each lecture.)
Use at least one course concept from the Convenience or Responsibility unit of this class to support your informed opinion. You must decide if the concept is robust enough on its own to support your opinion or whether others are needed. Do not use the concept too narrowly or neglect aspects of the concept or related concepts that are clearly appropriate or necessary to the point you are trying to make. (For example, if you wanted to talk about the omnivores paradox its likely you would need to discuss the broader context of ambivalence and anxiety. If youre talking about the anthropological fix, it is likely you would also have to introduce the technological fix as a point of context / contrast).
In addition, you may also use concepts from the Identity unit or the readings to support your opinion.
Clearly signal that you are using a course concept by underlining the text where you introduce it.
Clearly explain what the concept means. Assume your reader has never heard of the concept before.
Use the course concept appropriately – your use of the concept must reflect an accurate understanding of the concept as presented in the lecture.
Citing your sources:
When you first introduce a concept, include the name of the author or source of the idea.
At the end of the sentence include the date of the lecture in which the concept was discussed.
Example: As the food studies scholar Warren Belasco has argued, in the anthropological fix(5/11)
If the concept was not credited to another author in the lecture, you can credit me as the author (Charlotte Biltekoff).
After you introduce the concept the first time, you no longer need to include the author’s name or the lecture date when using it.
Finding something to respond to:
Since this assignment is designed around the idea of a letter to the editor / opinion piece that might be published in a newspaper the most straightforward approach will be to respond to a news article. That said, you can choose to respond to something else “news like” such as a documentary, podcast, a TED or TEDx talk (or other recorded talk), or a blog post. You may also respond to a student paper that has been published in the Prized Writing collection (details to follow).
Find something on a topic you care about. Find something you want to think about, with, or against and that you know you can use course concepts to respond to.
While you are free to explore, here is some guidance for finding news articles and other news like things to respond to:
You can access and search newspapers through the library. Instructions for doing so are coming soon in this location.
You can respond to a student paper published in the UC Davis Prized Writing Collection, which you can search using the search function at the top right corner. A simple search using “food” might be a good place to start.
I love the food journalism at The Counter, which is freely accessible online. You can browse using the sections at the top, or search.
For podcasts, check out Extra Spicy.
You can find and search loads of TED talks and TEDx talks about food online.
Some lectures included news articles and news like items as optional reading / viewing in the deepen section of the module. You are welcome to use any of those materials.